Growing up in a “market family” meant that the holidays were almost frantic. Early mornings turned into late days as we traveled with smoked meats and cheeses to the outlying farmers markets. It was exhilarating and fun and truth be told I looked forward to November and December. This year was no different. December came and I split my time between the Inn and market, selling specialty cheeses for office parties, Christmas drop ins and family gatherings. As I talked so many of my customers through a well organized and varied cheese tray that would meet the needs of their function and surprise their guests with new and different flavors, I decided to share some of those ideas here with readers of the ‘Broads’.
Cheese tastes differ drastically and with more than 120 varieties in the case to choose from there is something for everyone. A brie type is a good start. Frommage d Affoinais (French) is a creamy triple crème brie (what’s not to like!) that has broad (literally) appeal. A well aged Canadian or Vermont cheddar adds some sharpness to the creamy smooth notes of the Frommage. You will want to include a blue of some type. For the folk who are not sure if they like Blue cheeses, a piece of German Cambazola is perfect. It is also a brie type cheese with blue running through it and has a wonderful flavor. St Agur (French) is a creamy blue that is also well liked and not overpowering. Those 2 are on my list of all time favorite cheeses. If you enjoy the blues, go for a pungent English Stilton or Roquefort (French).
Round these selections out with a harder cheese such as an aged Gouda or Gruyere
No cheese offering would be complete without a goat cheese. I particularly like the French Montrachet drizzled with a bit of good quality honey and sprinkled with Saigon Cinnamon. This gives a bright sweet edge to the cheese plate and is exciting and different.
Serve all of these with sliced pears, almonds, and Spanish fig cake as well as a assortment of crackers, bread and lavash.
As you prepare cheese trays in the future go with the ones that you know and enjoy and try and add a new one to provide good fodder for conversation as well as expand your cheese horizons.
Here are 10 of my all time favorites. Serve 3 to 5
Canadian Sharp Cheddar
Fromagge d Affoinois (plain or with herbs and garlic)
Vlasskaas (Gouda type)
Robiola (a goat, sheep cow milk cheese. Italian. Outstanding flavor)
Swiss Woods Bed and Breakfast
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